Save a couple of things, the stuff that’s gotten done while Donald Trump has been in office isn’t terrible. We’ve seen tax reform, a conservative replacement for Antonin Scalia, a growing economy, a regulatory repeal on a scale we didn’t think possible, and a few other tidbits here and there.
For the most part, the Trump Era hasn’t been bad. The Trump Administration, however, is another story entirely.
Very little of what’s gotten done during the Trump Era has started with the Trump Administration. He used executive orders for the regulatory repeal and nominated Neil Gorsuch, but a lot of the success of the past year has come out of Congress, strangely enough. The Trump Administration has suffered numerous leaks and an alarming turnover rate. The House of Trump just doesn’t seem stable.
The most stable part of the Trump Administration is John Kelly, a man who allowed an accused domestic abuser stay on staff in order to help keep Trump on the level. That is how bad off the White House is right now, and it’s only going to get worse.
So, what does Donald Trump need to do right now? Who does he need to hire? How can he right the ship? He needs to start hiring people who will disagree with him openly, publicly, and emphatically.
Gary Cohn is perhaps the only person who has really stood up to Trump in a very visible way, and he quit his job because Trump still had too many people who know too little whispering in his ear. There are simply not enough Gary Cohns in the administration to fight back against bad ideas.
Trump’s problem is very similar to Barack Obama’s. They both surrounded themselves with yes-men and rarely were confronted with disagreement in any meaningful sense. However, Trump’s situation is far, far worse because, unlike Obama, Trump does not seem capable of much original thought in the world of politics. He is relying on other, far dumber voices to tell him what to do.
This is in part what leads to the confusion in messaging. Trump will say one thing, talk with someone else, and then use whatever that last person said in the next speech or event or wherever there is a microphone handy. He doesn’t have a core set of ideological beliefs he can rely on. He relies on the opinions of others, rather than any research or fact-finding on his own part to come to a conclusion.
So, you have all these yes-men around Trump, all of whom are eager to make him happy. How do you make Trump happy? You make him popular. So, they throw out ideas they believe will cause a stir in the media and then Trump takes those ideas and runs with them.
What Trump is missing, especially with Cohn gone now, is someone who will stand up, say that an idea is really, really stupid, and say it in a way that Trump can understand and force him to stop and think for a moment. At the moment, all he has are people who will get asked a question by the media and respond with “Well, you see, what we’re actually looking at is much more complex,” and it gets played down.
There is no one fighting the really dumb ideas in a really public way. That has to happen if Trump wants to actually produce something of value with his administration.